Discussion Best CPUxGPUxRAM combinations for the budget/competitive gamer

Oct 4, 2018
(EDIT: Added 1920x1080 resolution on another post, below.)

Recently Tomshardware published a RAM benchmark article, where, as expected, the RAM speed doesn’t have much influence, in gaming, at high resolutions, but is very significant at low resolutions (1280x720 and 1920x1080), where games tend to be CPU bound.

Because the RAM is so influential at low resolutions, there comes the question: Is better to spend on RAM, CPU or GPU?

With 21 GPU, 40 CPU and 11 different memory speeds, the number of possible combinations becomes over 9000. Choosing the best investment for a given budget is difficult.

This post is speculative, extrapolating the data to different processors, and doesn’t account for many particularities of each processor, but is the best we can do without the actual benchmarks.

It is assumed that performance scales proportionality to the TH published index, for all combinations, and that all processors support DDR4 (which I didn’t checked). In addition, processors sold without cooler were not assigned a higher price (because I did not checked it, and do not know what cooler price to assign).

The size of the bubbles is proportional to TH application performance index, If a large bubble is close to the lower-right line of the chart, then is a great buy for general purposes, even if slightly not the best price-performance choice.

Also, it is assumed that all machines have 16 Gb of RAM, because 8 GB are probably too little even for the budget gamer.

Tomshardware could do a great article testing it.

This data is of interest for two types of gamers:

  • The absolute, scrape of the barrel, budget gamer, where each cent counts.
  • The competitive, online shooter player, which recourse to configure the lowest graphic settings to maximize performance in order to get an advantage. That kind of gamer even hacks configuration files to lower LOD and other resources, for the sake of reducing lag and reaction times, but by doing that, he risks being banned from the online community. For that player, it makes sense to invest on expensive hardware, and play at the lowest legal settings.
The TH articles on which this is based are

CPU Hierarchy 2019: Intel and AMD Processors Ranked

GPU Performance Hierarchy: Video Cards Ranked

Memory Overclocking on Z390 Coffee Lake: What RAM Speed Do You Need?
(prices are for 16Gb=2x8)

Here is the scatter chart Price vs performance (bubbles size is CPU application performance)
Click to expand.

Here is a zoom to the lower left

The conclusion is that in general, for the budget gamer it does not makes sense to spend on expensive memory, beyond DDR4 3000, and it makes sense to spend on at least an RX 570.

The absolute worst buy is Ryzen 3 2200G paired with GT 1030 and DDR4-2400, but it doesn’t provides much performance. It really makes sense to stretch the budget to get at least a Ryzen 3 2200GxRX 570xDDR4-2400

The following sweet spots are

i3-8100xRX 570xDDR4-2800

i3-8100xRX 580 8GBxDDR4-2800

And then we reach Ryzen 5 2600xRX 580 8GBxDDR4-2800, which is a great investment, providing at least half of the maximum achievable performance, and also good non-gaming performance.

From here, we are surely no more on the budget zone, but the competitive online player may find useful to note that, from the last point, is preferable to invest on better processor, until we get a Ryzen 5 2600XxRX 580 8GBxDDR4-2800.

Beyond it, we enter NVidia’s RTX zone, and it doesn’t makes sense to spend on memory fastest than DDR4-3000.

We need to reach a sweet spot of Ryzen 5 2600XxRTX 2070xDDR4-3600 or i5-8600KxRTX 2070xDDR4-3600 to start justifying more expensive memory than DDR4-3000.

On this zone, DDR4-3600/4200 is the best investment.

It doesn’t makes sense to spend beyond i5-8600KxRTX 2080xDDR4-4200.There is no much to gain, and a lot of cost added, but the maximum possible performance is achieved at i5-8600KxRTX 2080 TixDDR4-4400. It will cost you a small fortune for less than 5% extra speed.

Here are the points without labels

Last edited:
Oct 4, 2018

here is the chart for 1920x1080 resolution

here is a zoom to the interesting part, for better visualization

The main changes wit respect to 1280x720 resolution is that at 1920x1080, it doesn't makes any sense to spend on memory beyond DDR4-3000, up to 90% of the maximum performance achievable.

A Ryzen 2600X x RTX 2080 x DDR4-3000 gives beyond 90% of the maximum.

Fast memory is overpriced, and misses the opportunity to compete with GPU and CPU for the gamer budget.